On December 22nd, 1964, the SR-71 Blackbird took to the air for the very first time, rising above Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale with F-104 chase planes in pursuit. The occasion would mark the birth of one of the most amazing and renowned aircraft of all time.

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To understand just how exotic the Blackbird family of aircraft were, you need look no farther than its historical stats and metrics.

Some numbers from the Blackbird family of planes:

  • 35 miles per minute or 3,100 feet per second is how fast the SR-71 could fly
  • 170,000 pounds was how much a fully fueled and outfitted Blackbird weighed
  • 59,000 pounds was what one weighed empty
  • 107 feet, 5 inches is the length of a Blackbird
  • 85,000 feet is the official Blackbird ceiling, although it supposedly could fly higher
  • 34,000 pounds of thrust were what each of the SR-71’s J-58 engines put out in afterburner
  • 17,300 total sorties were flown by the Blackbird family of aircraft
  • 3,551 of these sorties were operational missions
  • 11,675 hours were spent over mach three
  • 53,490 total flight hours were amassed on the fleet
  • Just 8 crew members had more than 1,000 hours in the jet
  • Only 86 SR-71 pilots and 86 RSOs flew operational missions
  • 385 total persons have reached mach three in a Blackbird, including 105 VIPs
  • 478 total people have flown in Blackbirds
  • 32 SR-71s were built
  • 50 total Blackbird family aircraft were built (A-12, YF-12, SR-71, M-21)
  • 1 hour and 4 minutes was how fast the SR-71 could go from Los Angeles to Washington D.C.
  • $33,000,000 was the cost to build a single SR-71 Blackbird
  • 900 degrees Fahrenheit was how hot the SR-71’s skin got during high-speed runs
  • 3,200 degrees Fahrenheit was the temperature of the J-58 engine’s exhaust at maximum output
  • Over 1,000 missiles were launched at the SR-71 without any losses
  • 5 pounds is how much weight a SR-71 crew member could lose in their pressure suit during a four our mission
  • 85 percent of the Blackbird’s skin is titanium, the other 15 percent is carbon composites
  • 2.5G was the SR-71’s structural stress limit
  • About 16 “starts” per engine worth of Triethylborane (TEB) were carried on an SR-71 mission as the Blackbird’s engines could not be restarted in the air without the TEB accelerant.
  • 140 degrees Fahrenheit was the flash-point of the SR-71’s JP-7 fuel. Normal jet fuel has a flash-point of 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • 56 KC-135s were converted to KC-135Q/Ts that could refuel Blackbirds
  • 20 of the 50 Blackbird aircraft family were written off in crashes and mishaps
  • 6 inches is how much longer the SR-71 would grow at high speed due to heat expansion
  • Zero was the number of computers used to design the Blackbird

Here’s to the “Sled” at 51 one years of age!

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Sources: SR71Websmaster, SR-71.org, SR-71: The Complete Illustrated History of the Blackbird, HABU.org

Contact the author at Tyler@jalopnik.com.

Photos: Top shot via NASA, Bottom shot via Lockheed